Hatsu 2021: A Peek at Juryo

We find ourselves halfway through the first tournament of 2021, and I’m not sure anyone could have anticipated what we have seen so far. The top division alone has provided plenty of twists and turns, but be careful not to overlook Juryo over the next week. Some veterans will need a big turnaround over the next eight days to get back to Makuuchi, while a few notable rikishi look to be well on the way to a long-awaited Makuuchi return or debut. Come with me, dear reader, as I walk you through the magnificent landscape that is the Juryo division.

There are nine Juryo rikishi inactive this month, chiefly as a result of coronavirus protocols. This has opened the field up significantly as several maegashira mainstays have been eliminated from Juryo yusho contention from the jump in Enho, Ishiura, and Chiyomaru. Chiyonoo is also out, meaning he will have to wait for another chance to make his first makuuchi appearance since 2017.

As for the rikishi who are healthy, the remaining top third of juryo has had a basho to forget. Ex-komusubi Shohozan (currently perched at J4E) is showing his age at 36, managing only three wins from his first seven bouts this month. He is without a winning record since 2019, and such a result is not looking likely this January, either. It will be interesting to see if we’ve seen the last of Shohozan amongst the top flight’s rank-and-filers. Daiamami has been unable to build on the form he showed back in November when he accrued a respectable 9-6 record, so this month’s J1W will need a big second week to find himself in the first division for the eighth time come March’s basho. Churanoumi’s 4-3 record at J3W (a career high for the 27 year old from Okinawa Prefecture) might not seem incredibly impressive, but he  is riding three straight winning records, all of them 8-7. His consistency is noteworthy, and he has been slowly but steadily climbing the banzuke. He looked good on Day 7 against M17E Sadanoumi, so who knows? Perhaps another eight win effort is on the cards for Churanoumi.

The leader to this point in the basho in Juryo is J8E Tsurugisho, which is nice to see from a guy who had a cup of coffee in makuuchi from late 2019 to early 2020. Gunning for his second career Juryo yusho, Tsurugisho is undefeated so far. He hasn’t exactly been facing total scrubs either, with quality wins over the likes of Churanoumi, Nishikigi, Shohozan, and a rejuvenated Jokoryu. He has not faced the 5-2 fan-favorite Ura yet, whose return to makuuchi has been widely anticipated. Ura presents perhaps the biggest threat to Tsurugisho’s yusho hopes, as the widely publicized sekitori debut of J11W Oho has been disappointing (a mere 2-5 record so far). There is a significant portion of the division at 4-3 or 3-4, so it will be interesting to see who can separate from the pack and chase down Tsurugisho.

One last story to follow is the continuation of the Jokoryu Revenge Tour. Could he rip off a big second week and inch ever closer to his first makuuchi appearance in five years? It’s been a slow comeback for the 32 year old, but he is without a losing record since 2019. He’s got a good opportunity to build on his 4-3 start against J14E Ryuko on Day 8. Jokoryu is back, you heard it here first.

That’s all for now, catch me back here again next week with some fire post-basho Juryo analysis.

JOINT PRACTICE!

“No Kensho…no Jungyo…no degeiko…no…”

This song has been playing on a loop inside my head since March, as events and gatherings that I had taken for granted were ripped away.

 

Slowly, activities are coming back in our own lives. And today, the sumo world took another step back to normalizing as several heavyweights gathered for the first joint practice session in half a year. No name is bigger than Hakuho, obviously. Kakuryu was not there, but stablemate Kiribayama was, along with Mitakeumi, Takakeisho, and yusho holder, Shodai.

Hakuho didn’t just sit on the sidelines, hamming for the camera, either. He got in a little action, here doing butsukari with Shodai and practicing his tachiai with Ikioi. It’s great to see the Boss back in a mawashi, offering his chest and a few pointers to up-and-comers. But now that he’s gotten a few pictures in it, hopefully he folded it neatly and left it in a corner to gather dust for a few more weeks. There’s no need to push it.

Tokyo July Basho Senshuraku Highlights

Octagon Presents Terunofuji the Emperor’s Cup

Leonid did a great job of explaining what’s at stake today. One thing that I can’t get over, though, it is August 2nd. The July basho yusho was, oddly enough, decided in August after being fought in Tokyo. One Ozeki on the torikumi for senshuraku and zero Yokozuna confirm we are in a time of flux on the dohyo. But off the dohyo, the whole damn world is in flux. However, the drama of this past fortnight has served as a wonderful distraction.

Terunofuji’s Championship serves to demonstrate that our substantial challenges can be overcome. The next time we get together, we will be confident for the health and safety of all involved and that we can all breathe a deep sigh of relief. The coronavirus reminders have been everywhere and lapse in protocols may end up costing Abi very dearly. The virus robbed Terunofuji’s triumphant return of much of the pomp and celebration he’s due. No parade. No senshuraku parties. Supporters are beyond arms reach, though we are with him in spirit. I hope he gets to party properly after his next title.

Highlight Matches

Sadanoumi (8-7) defeated Nishikigi (6-9): Sadanoumi hot off the line, wrapped up Nishikigi and walked him back and out to pick up his kachi-koshi. Yorikiri.

Tochinoshin (10-5) defeated Kotoshoho (8-7): Tochinoshin got the better of the initial charge, forcing Kotoshoho back a step. Kotoshoho pivoted but Tochinoshin followed and got his big left paw up around the back of Kotoshoho’s neck and pulled down violently. Kotoshoho had no choice but to touch down. Hatakikomi.

Kaisei (6-9) defeated Shimanoumi (5-10): Shimanoumi tried to drive forward into Kaisei but Kaisei’s trunk was well set at the center of the ring. Kaisei shoved Shimanoumi backwards twice, hurling the matching orange mawashi out of the ring. Tsukidashi.

Wakatakakage (10-5) defeated Ishiura (4-11): Ishiura seemed to pull something in his right leg. He was unable to put much weight on his right foot. Wakatakakage blasted the hopping Ishiura off the dohyo. Ishiura limped back up onto the dohyo. Oshidashi.

Kotoeko (10-5) defeated Terutsuyoshi (8-7): Terutsuyoshi’s ashitori worked once but Kotoeko was ready for it. He dodged out of the way and regrouped grabbing for Terutsuyoshi’s belt. Taking a page from Tochinoshin, Kotoeko landed his left on the back of Terutsuyoshi and pulled him down to the floor. Hatakikomi.

Ryuden (7-8) defeated Kotonowaka (4-6-4): Kotonowaka still could not put much weight on his left leg. Ryuden was able to get Kotonowaka sliding backwards to the bales and over. Yorikiri.

Hokutofuji (9-6) defeated Kotoshogiku (8-7): Hokutofuji met Kotoshogiku head on but stepped to the side with his right arm up on Kotoshogiku’s shoulder, forcing Kotoshogiku to the ground. Hatakikomi.

Chiyotairyu (6-9) defeated Aoiyama (5-10): Aoiyama was a bit over-eager, charging forward off balance. Chiyotairyu pulled with his left hand up on Aoiyama’s shoulder applying sufficient pressure to force Aoiyama down. Hikiotoshi.

Ikioi (3-12) defeated Kagayaki (5-10): Ikioi showed some strength and wile for the first time this week. Driven to the bales by Kagayaki he drove forward, forcing Kagayaki back. However, Kagayaki wasn’t going to go over the bales easily, either. Kagayaki grabbed Ikioi by the mawashi, forcing him back but Ikioi deftly slipped to the side and pulled Kagayaki down. Shitatenage.

Halftime

Kiribayama (6-9) defeated Takarafuji (5-10): Takarafuji wiggled and retreated, trying to keep Kiribayama off his belt. But Kiribayama was relentless and able to slip both hands on there. Once he was secure in the morozashi, queue deathspin throw. Uwatenage.

Onosho (2-13) defeated Chiyomaru (4-11): Follow the bouncing Chiyomaru. Onosho got the better of the tachiai but Chiyomaru used his mass to arrest Onosho’s progress and started moving forward. Onosho pivoted several times in retreat to stay away from the edge of the ring but as Chiymaru forced him along it, Onosho executed a throw. Shitatenage.

Takayasu (10-5) defeated Takanosho (8-7): Takayasu’s aggressive tsuppari pushed Takanosho up and back. A well-timed pull sent Takanosho to the clay. Hikiotoshi.

Yutakayama (5-10) defeated Enho (5-10): Enho eager to get things started but Yutakayama. Yutakayama advanced forward, keeping his weight low. His effective tsuppari targeted Enho’s face and shoulders. He attempted two hatakikomi pulls, the second of which was more effective in getting Enho off balance but Enho sprang backwards. Yutakayama pursued and forced Enho out. Oshitaoshi.

Endo (8-7) defeated Tokushoryu (7-8): Our sole Darwin bout? Tokushoryu allowed Endo in to the belt far too easily. Endo bounced Tokushoryu to the edge where Tokushoryu’s foot slipped from the bales. They give Endo the yorikiri.

Sanyaku

Tamawashi (10-5) defeated Okinoumi (9-6): Tamawashi is a bruiser and Okinoumi was ready for a brawl. Okinoumi chased Tamawashi around the ring with effective slaps and thrusts. Tamawashi won on the belt, though, throwing Okinoumi at the edge. Uwatenage.

Daieisho (11-4) defeated Myogiryu (10-5): Daieisho ducked to the side, as Myogiryu was pitched too far forward. A disappointing end to Myogiryu’s fantastic basho. Hikiotoshi.

Terunofuji (13-2) defeated Mitakeumi (11-4): Showtime. Wow. Morozashi from Terunofuji and Mitakeumi was done. Terunofuji advanced, marching Mitakeumi out. Yusho Terunofuji! Yorikiri.

Asanoyama (12-3) defeated Shodai (11-4): Asanoyama bulldozed into Shodai who’s back to a less-than-impressive tachiai. After yesterday’s bout with Terunofuji, I was expecting more fire from the Daikon. However, Asanoyama corralled Shodai effectively, working Shodai back to the edge. Shodai nearly pulled the Ozeki down but Asanoyama recovered. Oshidashi.

Terunofuji has been here before. But I NEVER would have thought he’d storm back in his first makuuchi tournament. The pink macaron! Congratulations, Terunofuji!!!

Aside from the yusho, Terunofuji picked up the Outstanding Performance and Technique Prizes. Daieisho and Mitakeumi also collected Outstanding Performance Prizes. Not to be left out, Shodai was given the Fighting Spirit Prize for actually having a solid tachiai against Kaiju. See what you can do?

Thank you for enjoying this tournament with us. Time to clean up and get ready for September.

Tokyo July Basho Day 14 Highlights

The final weekend is upon us. After months of anticipation we have another yusho race but this one is certainly unexpected. At the start of the week, Hakuho looked to be on cruise control. Having locked up his Yokozuna kachi-koshi, a misstep against Daieisho and then injury against Mitakeumi cost him his title chance.

The young guns are making serious moves for promotion. Mitakeumi and Shodai will want to begin Ozeki runs here. No, I don’t think either are in one at the moment. With absent Yokozunae, Asanoyama will surely be looking for a belt but he needs to start winning tournaments first. And Terunofuji is leading the way from “the behind” again and wants to get back into sanyaku. How is he here? I mean this article pulled up by Herouth is a heart-wrenching AND stomach-churning two-fer.

So, the questions for today are many. Can Terunofuji lock things up today, with a little help? Will the young guns in san’yaku begin their own serious bids for promotion? How many of our fading heroes will fall from makuuchi? Why is Andy’s neighbor’s dog barking at 6am? Read on and we shall see…

Highlight Matches

Takayasu (10-5) defeated Nishikigi (6-8): Takayasu got the jump with a solid tachiai and quickly walked Nishikigi out. At least Nishikigi won’t have to worry about a senshuraku Darwin bout. Yorikiri.

Sadanoumi (7-7) defeated Kotoshogiku (8-6): Sadanoumi, on the other hand, will likely get a Darwin bout tomorrow with this win over Kotoshogiku. He quickly wrapped up the former ozeki and walked him out. Yorikiri.

Shohozan (4-10) defeated Kotoyuki (6-8) vs: Sadly, Kotoyuki is kyujo Shohozan picks up the easy win after his henka of Onosho yesterday. Shohozan got a freebie and Onosho got Ikioi…

Chiyomaru (4-10) defeated Shimanoumi (5-9): Another quick win. This time Chiyomaru chases Shimanoumi out. These early bouts aren’t exactly filled with Kanto-sho contenders, are they? Yorikiri.

Myogiryu (10-4) defeated Kotoshoho (8-6): Myogiryu met Kotoshoho with a solid tachiai. Then he absorbed Kotoshoho’s attack, sliding back to the tawara. At the last moment, he pivoted and brought his arm up to help Kotoshoho off the dohyo. A wily, experienced win. Hatakikomi.

Wakatakakage (9-5) defeated Tamawashi (9-5): Tamawashi came to brawl. With a strong tachiai and upper torso attacks, he forced Wakatakakage into reverse. A brutal nodowa at the edge and I thought the smaller man was done. However, Wakatakakage ducked to the side and under Tamawashi’s attack. His counter-attack was able to drive Tamawashi back and out. Oshidashi.

Tochinoshin (9-5) defeated Hokutofuji (8-6): Hokutofuji met Tochinoshin with a solid tachiai, set his head down to drive into the powerful former ozeki. Tochinoshin slipped his left arm to Hokutofuji’s mawashi and pulled his opponent forward for a well-timed throw. Uwatedashinage.

Kagayaki (5-9) defeated Kotonowaka (4-5-5): As Leonid mentioned, Kotonowaka’s presence on the dohyo today was not wise. Kotonowaka’s tachiai took effort. That left knee is not ready. Kagayaki wore the youngster out by letting Kotonowaka charge with his right leg and force their massive combined weight across the ring. Then he took advantage of the fact that Kotonowaka could not put all of his weight on that knee. By pivoting, Kagayaki forced Kotonowaka to the outside and into a position where he couldn’t lead with the left or resist at the bales, either. Yorikiri.

Takarafuji (5-9) defeated Kaisei (5-9): Takarafuji pounced with a quick left-handed grab under Kaisei’s right arm and pull. I realize “quick” is a relative term. Kaisei rolls down the banzuke. Tsukiotoshi.

Kiribayama (5-9) defeated Chiyotairyu (5-9): Kiribayama slipped under Chiyotairyu’s oshi attack, drove him back to the bales and walked him over. I woke up at 3am for this? Gonna get some tea…may put a nip of whisky in there. Yorikiri, btw.

Halftime

Takanosho (8-6) defeated Tokushoryu (7-7): Tokushoryu tried to pull but Takanosho pursued brilliantly, driving into Tokushoryu and forcing him out. Excellent footwork from Takanosho. There aren’t actually many candidates for Darwin bouts so maybe Sadanoumi or Endo tomorrow? There’s no schedule yet. We shall see. Oshidashi.

Onosho (1-13) defeated Ikioi (2-12): Onosho was a bit too genki, drove into Ikioi early. Ikioi scolded him and an apologetic Onosho retreated back to the shikari-sen. However, the real deal was as one-sided as the matta. Onosho drove into Ikioi and through Ikioi. Ikioi had no ability to resist. Oshidashi.

Endo (7-7) defeated Ryuden (6-8): A solid tachiai from Endo and he quickly secured a right-hand grip on Ryuden’s belt. Ryuden tried to pivot and change direction but Endo followed with his left arm under Ryuden’s armpit. From here, Endo was ready to strike and executed a great throw. Endo vs Tokushoryu is set up for bout of the day tomorrow. Amirite? As Leonid mentioned, there aren’t many bouts for kachi-koshi tomorrow. Uwatenage, btw.

Yutakayama (4-10) defeated Ishiura (4-10): Ishiura met Yutakayama head on but shifted. Yutakayama shoved his forearm into Ishiura and kept it there, pushing Ishiura back. Ishiura pivoted and got Yutakayama to the edge but Yutakayama stayed low and used his size advantage to drive Ishiura back. Oshidashi.

Sanyaku

Daieisho (10-4) defeated Enho (5-9): Enho took on Daieisho as if he were six inches taller and 100 kilos heavier. That was not a wise choice as Daieisho stayed low and brawled with the pixie, going for his opponent’s head. Enho retreated but couldn’t find any weakness or point to counter-attack. Instead, he found the clay as Daieisho thrust straight through him, assuring there’d be no Takakeisho-style uncertainty. Tsukitaoshi.

Okinoumi (9-5) defeated Aoiyama (5-9): A great rumble and the Oki Sea rose at the tachiai, and enveloped the man-mountain. This tsunami’s angry torrent swirled around the mountain, lifted it from the very Earth and drove it into the valley below. Tsukiotoshi.

Shodai (11-3) defeated Terunofuji (12-2): Shodai was unafraid. I’ve not seen a stronger tachiai from Shodai. He drove straight into Terunofuji but Kaiju stood his ground and would not let him get all the way to the bales. Sensing the resistance and Terunofuji’s forward pressure, Shodai pulled Terunofuji back, pivoting on his right foot with a great throw and heaved him to the bales on the other side but Terunofuji stayed on his feet. The separation allowed Shodai to set up a final charge which left Terunfuji in a heap. A FIST PUMP FROM SHODAI! Yorikiri.

Mitakeumi (11-3) defeated Kotoeko (9-5): Kotoeko on the offensive here, forced Mitakeumi back. Mr. Lavender’s been eating his Wheaties. Mitakeumi on the defensive, retreating and turning as Kotoeko chased him around the ring. At the last moment, backed up against the tawara, Mitakeumi pivoted and forced Kotoeko out. Sukuinage.

Terutsuyoshi (8-6) defeated Asanoyama (11-3): Salt rained down on musubi-no-ichiban. Ready for the tachiai….Ashitori!!!!!!!!!!!!! Holy crap!!!! A beautifully timed henka and leg grab from Terunofuji…oops, Terutsuyoshi. He ducked under Asanoyama’s advance, eyes set on Asanoyama’s left knee. Asanoyama advanced as if his eyes were closed, awaiting the impact that never came. Well, it just came later, after Terutsuyoshi picked up the leg and twisted up, forcing Asanoyama to the ground. ASHITORI!!!

It was great to listen to the Abema crew chatting during these sanyaku bouts. The drama built as we watched the bouts and the palpable excitement was refreshing to hear. The top half of the banzuke is living up to its billing. The bottom half…well, Takayasu and Myogiryu had a bit of spirit today. Kotonowaka had plenty of spirit but only one healthy knee. Technically, Terunofuji’s also from the bottom-half of the banzuke, I guess, but he’s sure worked his way back up the to the top of the torikumi.

While there aren’t many answers today, I do have one. Binky’s just crazy.